A three-member committee of Supreme Court judges led by Justice S.A. Bobde, the No. 2 judge in the apex court, was formed on April 23 to look into allegations of sexual harassment raised by a former employee against Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi.
The other two members of the committee are Justice N.V. Ramana and Justice Indira Banerjee. Justice Ramana is the number three judge in the apex court.
Justice Bobde has taken a central role in dealing with the crisis which erupted on April 20 when some websites published the woman’s allegations against the CJI.
Justice Bobde on April 23 constituted a Special Bench of Justices Arun Mishra, Rohinton Nariman and Deepak Gupta to deal with, on the judicial side, the suo motu petition titled ‘In a matter of great public importance touching upon the independence of the judiciary’.
The meeting on the formation of the committee went on till late evening on April 23. The morning saw an intense closed-door discussion till noon before beginning their usual court work. The discussion was centred on how to tackle the “wildfire” of accusations directed at the court, a highly placed source in the Supreme Court said.
The source said it was decided that the immediate task was to contain the damage caused by the allegations to the judiciary and streamline the court. In the long run, the source said, the institution would, through a Full Court, evolve a mechanism to safeguard judges from external attacks as well as to fairly look into the veracity of such complaints and allegations against the judiciary.
The woman’s allegations have rocked the legal community and has led the court to experience one of the most trying times in its long history. On January 12, 2018, the Supreme Court experienced turmoil when four senior most judges of the court, including the present CJI, held a press conference against what they termed as the selective allocation of sensitive cases to certain Benches by recent Chief Justices of India.
Meanwhile, the Special Bench led by Justice Mishra decided to examine an affidavit filed a Supreme Court advocate, Utsav Singh Bains, with information that there was a larger conspiracy afoot to frame the CJI in a false case.
Mr. Bains, in his affidavit filed on April 22, said he was approached by a man who identified himself to be a relative of the former apex court employee. This man, Mr. Bains, claimed had offered him up to ₹1.5 crore to file the false case . The person however had turned evasive when asked by Mr. Bains to be specific about his relationship with the woman. The lawyer said he had reliable information that a larger plot was up against the CJI in which “fixers” involved in a “cash-for-judgment racket” were involved.
Since Mr. Bains was not present in the court room when the case was called, the Bench issued notice for his personal appearance on April 24 at 10.30 a.m.
The affidavit filed by Mr. Bains has been made part of the suo motu case opened by the Supreme Court into the sexual harassment allegations.